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What does Chap Goh Mei mean?


DURING ancient times, young women were forbidden to go out except on Chap Goh Mei, according to folklore.

The 15th night of the Chinese New Year celebrations is still regarded as the Chinese Valentine’s Day – with some romantics tossing tangerines into the sea to find their true love.

The last and 15th day of Chinese New Year is known as Chap Goh Mei

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The last and 15th day of Chinese New Year is known as Chap Goh MeiCredit: Getty Images – Getty

What does Chap Goh Mei mean?

Every February, the Chinese observe the Lantern Festival, or Chap Goh Mei – the Hokkien term for the 15th night of the New Year.

This day marks the end of the Chinese New Year when lanterns are lit and hung, and people watch dragon dances in the street.

In 2021 it is being celebrated today, Friday February 26.

The day is also known as Yuan Xiao Jie, and is an important festival signifying the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Dr Ng Eng Hen, Singapore's Minister for Defence, shares memories about Chap Goh Mei

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Dr Ng Eng Hen, Singapore’s Minister for Defence, shares memories about Chap Goh Mei

New year decorations are normally taken down on this day, and replaced with red lanterns to celebrate the first full moon of the year, explains Yahoo News.

Apart from being a big event in China, it is also marked in other Asian countries, including Malaysia and Singapore.

Google Doodles is today showing artwork celebrating “the annual Taiwanese celebration, known as the Lantern Festival, one of the nation’s most treasured occasions that falls on the first full moon of the Lunar New Year”.

The Lantern Festival celebrations include thousands of glowing paper lanterns, says Google

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The Lantern Festival celebrations include thousands of glowing paper lanterns, says GoogleCredit: Google

Where did Chap Goh Mei come from?

 There are many legends and stories about the traditions and celebrations of Chap Goh Mei.

The Star paper in Malaysia explains that legend has it that a “beautiful crane flew down to earth from heaven only to be slaughtered by some villagers.

“The crane was the Jade Emperor’s favourite crane, and he was angered by its death. He vowed vengeance against the villagers.

“On the 15th lunar day, the Jade Emperor planned to send a storm of fire down. But his daughter, Zhi Nu, took pity on the villagers.

“She warned the villagers about their impending doom, and they were troubled as they could not see a way out.

“Then, a wise man from another village came up with the suggestion for every family to hang red lanterns around their houses, set up bonfires on the streets and set off firecrackers on the 14th, 15th and 16th lunar days.

“On the 15th day, the troops descended from heaven with orders to incinerate the village, but saw that it was already “ablaze” and returned to report to the Jade Emperor.

“Since then, people celebrated the anniversary of the 15th lunar day every year by carrying lanterns on the street and setting off firecrackers.”

There'll be loads of sparks and fire crackers on this day

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There’ll be loads of sparks and fire crackers on this dayCredit: Getty Images – Getty

CHINESE VALENTINE’S DAY

Chap Goh Mei is also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Tourism Malaysia explains that according to folklore, young men in ancient times could only see young women on Chap Goh Mei (also known as Chap Goh Mey).

On this particular night unmarried women – who were forbidden to go out on every other day of the year – would throw tangerines in the river or sea to enable them to marry good husbands.

Reuters reported in Malaysia how this tradition persists to this day, with thousands tossing tangerines into water, hoping the fruits would be picked up by a potential romantic partner.

It’s still observed among Malaysians of Chinese descent in this majority Muslim nation, and takes place on the final night of the 15-day Lunar New Year celebration.

On Chinese Valentine’s Day in Malaysia, women write their names, telephone numbers and emails on the skins of the tangerines.

If a man is interested in a woman, he hands over a banana with his details on it.

The Lunar New Year ushered in the Year of the Ox in 2021

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The Lunar New Year ushered in the Year of the Ox in 2021Credit: Getty Images – Getty

Why is Chap Goh Mei celebrated?

 Chap Goh Mei is a popular festival date, marking the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Apart from being synonymous with Chinese Valentine’s Day, it is also a day when big family gatherings are held, to tuck into plenty of good food.

“Chap Goh Mei is also often regarded as the last day that families can toss yee sang (Cantonese-style raw fish salad) together, with the auspicious act believed to bring booming prosperity in the coming year,” explains Free Malaysia.

Gary Lit Ying Loong, a retired academic from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore, writes about Chap Goh Mei:





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